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Carson-Newman Online

Undergraduate and Graduate Online Nursing Programs

Carson-Newman’s online nursing degree and certificate programs prepare registered nurses to become more empowered and autonomous caregivers.

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  1. Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) are the most common primary care providers in nursing, and becoming one requires broad knowledge of common medical issues and complex health care topics. Earning a graduate or postgraduate degree will fulfill the academic requirement to become an FNP, but further certifications will be necessary as well. The health care needs of the patient population have increased, and therefore the level of expertise of active nurses must expand as well. The country needs more nurses who have earned a Master of Science in Nursing to confront this nursing shortage head-on. Why Is Nurse Practitioner Demand Increasing? Health care facilities around the U.S. are currently faced with delivering health care services to unprecedented volumes of patients, but this is only one of many of the causes of the nursing shortage. Nurses aging out of the profession and into retirement also contribute to this trend. Additionally, many of the nurses who are reaching retirement age are educated and experienced leaders who make significant contributions to their organizations. When these key figures leave the field, efficiencies drop and patient health is put at risk. To address the rising demand for nurse practitioners, thought leaders in the health care discipline have been advocating for young people to enter the field and for active nurses to earn higher-level degrees in order to expand their skill sets. With more Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) graduates collaborating in the field, health care organizations will be able to increase the efficiency of patient care without exhausting their limited resources. But not all MSN graduates are equally qualified. MSN graduates who choose to earn their nurse practitioner certification after graduation are highly desirable job candidates because completing the NP certification process prepares them to communicate, collaborate and coordinate the delivery of complex nursing care. Pursuing Higher Education Is a Lucrative Career Choice People aren’t solely entering the nursing profession for altruistic reasons — many choose this career path because it offers plenty of lucrative benefits to those who work hard at it. In fact, according to Becker’s Hospital Review, nurse practitioner ranked at number five on their list of the top ten jobs in health care. This is likely due to the rewarding nature of their work, as not only are they able to contribute meaningfully to society, but they are also paid well over the median salary of $56,516 that the U.S. Census reported in 2015. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), registered nurses, who often hold a bachelor’s degree or lower, earned a median annual salary of $70,000 in 2017. Nurse practitioners, who must hold graduate or postgraduate degrees, earned a much higher median salary of $110,930. Nurses who continue their education can achieve significant career and salary growth over time, especially in this current period of high demand for educated nursing professionals. Why Family Nurse Practitioners? Nursing isn’t the only health care profession that is struggling to keep jobs filled — the U.S. is also facing a severe shortage of physicians. In the past, physicians were the only health care providers qualified to deliver basic medical treatments in a primary care setting. But due to the inadequate number of physicians actively practicing today, nurses have been encouraged to step in and take on some of this workload. In many states, the legal scope of practice for family nurse practitioners has expanded, enabling them to become primary care providers. This helps areas of the country that have limited access to medical facilities, like rural communities because NPs are more numerous than physicians. Are You Suited to Become a Family Nurse Practitioner? Before nurses decide to become FNPs, it’s important for them to determine whether the position is in line with their ultimate career goals. According to health care staffing company Staffcare, nurse practitioners are increasingly "playing a critical role in care delivery and coordination." Therefore, nurses who are interested in taking on leadership roles in health care settings may discover expanded opportunities in this role. The same company also reported that the scope of practice for NPs is increasing, meaning nurses searching for more challenging work may be able to find it working as FNPs. How Long Will This High Demand for Nurse Practitioners Last? There isn’t a precise estimate of how long nurses will be in high demand, but the BLS does have employment projections that predict a massive growth in the number of jobs available in the profession. Registered nurse jobs are expected to grow by approximately 438,000 new jobs between 2016 and 2026 (15 percent). Nurse practitioner jobs will be seeing a much higher percentage of growth, at 36 percent between 2016 and 2026, with the number of existing positions increasing from 155,500 to 211,600. Of course, competition for family nurse practitioner positions will be limited only to those nurses who have earned their Master of Science in Nursing and fulfilled their FNP certification requirements. Family Nurse Practitioners Are Cost Effective — for Patients and Hospitals Becker’s Hospital Review reports that half of the millennials they surveyed said they prefer to avoid seeing primary care doctors in order to save money. As an alternative, millennials who cannot afford a visit to the doctor often opt to receive primary care from an FNP or other nurse practitioner at a local private practice or urgent care clinic. People who have already started working in nursing should consider capitalizing on the nursing shortage now by studying to become qualified family nurse practitioners. Holding an FNP license that demonstrates their expertise in the field will allow educated nurses to stand out when applying for more competitive nursing jobs and to be ahead of the curve as the nursing job market continues to expand. Sources: American Association of Colleges of Nursing, Nursing Shortage Fact Sheet Becker’s Hospital Review, “U.S. News Ranks 'Best Healthcare Jobs 2019’ Bureau of Labor Statistics, Advanced Practice Registered Nurses Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses Staffcare, NP Job Outlook: “Nurse Practitioner Demand at All-Time High”
  2. Nurses must relay important information to colleagues and supervisors, doctors and healthcare providers, patients, and concerned family members. Developing effective communication skills is a key element of a successful nursing career in healthcare. Learning to navigate potentially challenging workplace dynamics is crucial to maintaining the safety and well-being of patients and practitioners alike. In addition to creating a stressful work environment, communication difficulties can lead to adverse health outcomes and a potential increase in patient mortality rates. A study by The Joint Commission concluded that 70 percent of reported sentinel events had been caused by a breakdown in communication among healthcare professionals. For nurses, acquiring a skill set that includes effective communication is crucial and a critical component of advanced education and training for nurses. This article highlights some of the potential challenges in the nurse-patient, nurse-nurse and nurse-doctor relationships, as well as tips on how to navigate and work within difficult situations in the workplace. Challenges in the Nurse-Patient Relationship Patient care is at the heart of nursing, and a desire to help people is one of the reasons many enter the field. Nevertheless, the unpredictable nature of practitioner-patient dynamics often tests the professionalism of nurses. Nurses are meeting patients at their most vulnerable, which can create tension, fear and other difficulties. Breakdowns in communication between nurses and patients happen. For example, patients may have difficulty concentrating on what their healthcare providers are telling them in a stressful moment, or they may be too concerned about their medical issues or distressed by pain to give nurses their undivided attention. Tip: Slow Down Nurses can be overwhelmed by the number of patients in their care and are expected to be on top of their tasks even in the tightest of time crunches. The need to multitask while checking on a patient is understandable, but slowing down and giving the patient your undivided attention may save time in the long run. Experts recommend sitting next to the patient, making eye contact and asking open-ended questions. Don’t dismiss patients’ feelings; instead, acknowledge that you understand their frustration. If a patient doesn’t seem to be listening or understanding instructions, try to find visual aids that may help him or her process the information. Challenges in the Nurse-Nurse Relationship Nursing tends to attract a diverse group of individuals in terms of age, gender, ethnicity and background. Though this is one of the industry’s strengths, it can also pose certain communication challenges for nurses. For example, there may be generational differences in the approach to patient care and medical operations within the unit. Toxic or deeply stressful work environments can proliferate, which adversely affects nurses of all levels. In addition to potentially reducing the quality of care nurses provide, a dysfunctional work culture can also lead to staff turnover and absenteeism. Tip: Have a “Cup of Coffee” Conversation This doesn’t actually mean going out for coffee with a colleague, though that could help. A “cup of coffee” conversation is a communication tool that can help nurses address a specific issue with a colleague. The goal is to focus on a single instance that may have created questions or concerns. Have this conversation in private and in a neutral location. Maintain a respectful and nonjudgmental attitude and briefly state the concern. It’s best to simply ask the other person to think about the situation. Finally, remind your colleague that he or she is a valued staff member. Challenges in the Nurse-Doctor Relationship At its best, the relationship between a nurse and a physician is one of respect and collaboration. Unfortunately, there are certain dynamics at play that can make communication challenging. Despite the increasing responsibilities of nurses, many still perceive doctors as being at the top of a hierarchical chain of command. As a result, some doctors dismiss nurses’ expertise or minimize their professional advice. Nurses may then feel pressured to keep their opinions to themselves. In addition, some doctors are not always aware of the scope of a nurse’s role when it comes to patient care and the daily pressure that nurses are under. Tip: Use SBAR to Report Patient Issues SBAR — Situation, Background, Assessment and Recommendation — is a communication technique to improve communication between nurses and physicians. This communication model allows you to organize your thoughts to convey information clearly, promptly and accurately. The first step is to briefly state the problem (the situation) to the doctor. Be sure to provide the doctor with all relevant information (the background). Then, share with the doctor what you believe are the potential causes of the problem (your assessment). Finally, be clear about what is required to address the situation (your recommendation). This framework allows nurses to communicate their concerns and needs to doctors while remaining focused on patient care. Final Tip: Feel Secure in Your Clinical Expertise Nursing is an incredibly rewarding field, but it is also highly competitive. Interpersonal skills and effective communication strategies can go a long way toward building a satisfying career. Nurses can foster their leadership qualities by seeking higher education. Students in a graduate nursing program, for example, can develop advanced skills in conflict resolution, interdisciplinary collaboration and sophisticated decision-making by enrolling in an online Master of Science of Nursing after earning a Bachelor’s in Nursing degree. With a refined skill set and deeper knowledge, graduates will feel empowered to speak with more authority in front of doctors, colleagues, and patients, as well as to voice their concerns from a place of confidence. What are some of the challenging dynamics you are experiencing in your nursing relationships and what are your tips to make them better? Please share your thoughts in the comments below! Sources: American Nurse Today, “Not Just ‘Eating Our Young’: Workplace Bullying Strikes Experienced Nurses, Too" American Nurse Today, "Promoting Professionalism by Sharing a Cup of Coffee" DailyNurse, "Improving Patient Safety, Part 1: Communicating With Providers" DailyNurse, "Tips for Communicating With Your Patients" Institute for Healthcare Improvement, “SBAR Tool: Situation, Background, Assessment, Recommendation” Nursing Center, "Nurse/Physician Relationships: Improving or Not?"
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